While recent developments cast some doubts on the viability of a proposed dangerous liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in South Jersey, opponents are warning that developer New Fortress Energy has not formally abandoned the project.
Late last month, several Pennsylvania environmental groups reached a settlement with the builders of the gas liquefaction plant in Bradford County that was intended to supply the New Fortress export terminal. The deal essentially requires the developer to obtain a new air permit if it wishes to build the facility. The current permit expires in July.
For its part, New Fortress affiliate Delaware River Partners has been claiming that they are not currently planning to export LNG from the Repauno port the company has spent years re-developing, but that the facility will be built to handle LNG to meet potential future demand. Despite the company’s rhetoric about not pursuing LNG, they have taken actions to continue down that path – including a last minute move in late November to apply for a renewal of its special permit to ship LNG by rail to the Gibbstown facility. In their permit application, New Fortress explained that “[t]he capability to move LNG by rail remains integral to the viability of this enterprise and this special permit thus is an important component of this undertaking.”
In fact, the company applied for permits to build a double rail track loop on the site that would enable them to handle liquid cargo in long “unit trains” that are used for LNG. They subsequently received these permits from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
And even without the Wyalusing liquefaction facility, New Fortress has indicated to federal regulators that it could source gas from other facilities, although they don’t disclose where. As political leaders and energy companies push for a rapid expansion of LNG projects to supply gas to Europe, companies like New Fortress will continue to pursue projects like the Gibbstown gas terminal.
“While any developments that slow down the Gibbstown fracking terminal are welcome news, there are still plenty of reasons to remain vigilant,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Noa Gordon-Guterman. “New Fortress has misled regulators and the public in an attempt to circumvent key regulatory oversight of their massive LNG export project. Some of the company’s current rhetoric could very well be more of the same. The real power to halt this project rests with the White House and the Murphy administration, who can put an end to all of this scheming by stopping this dangerous proposal in its tracks.”
“Every permit that is canceled in this complex and highly segmented project is an important win for the environment and community health. Taking this project apart piece by piece is what we have had to do because New Fortress Energy (NFE) and Delaware River Partners (DRP) have worked to cut this project up into little pieces to avoid agency reviews, comprehensive environmental analysis and public scrutiny. This subterfuge has been carried to the extreme by DRP spokespeople who pretend they have no interest in LNG export, yet the company is spending millions to make it happen, defending permits in court that allow it, putting up a front for investors, and playing coy about their intentions regarding the LNG export project. It doesn’t pass the straight face test that DRP is not interested in LNG but is doing everything in its power to make it happen. So, they are building LNG infrastructure while saying it will only be an “occasional use”. The old adage ‘watch what they do, not what they say’ explains it all – DRP and NFE want to export LNG but they want to avoid the federal agency review and environmental impact analysis required to do that. The truth is people are just not that gullible,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.